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Sunday, April 20, 2014 2:41 PM

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Columbia Shooter Was Loner


Recent Blake graduate purchased murder weapon at Rockville gun store

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Police and federal agents searched Darion Aguilar’s home after a murder-suicide at the Mall in Columbia this week. Photo by Jim Davis.

Police and federal agents searched Darion Aguilar’s home after a murder-suicide at the Mall in Columbia this week. Photo by Jim Davis.

Published on: Thursday, January 30, 2014

By Donna Broadway

COLUMBIA-Three people are dead, including the shooter following a shooting at Howard county shopping mall Saturday.

Police say Darion Marcus Aguilar, 19, of Silver Spring is responsible for the shooting that claimed the life of two Zumiez employees at the Mall in Columbia. According to Howard County Police. Brianna Benlolo, 21, and Tyler Johnson, 25, were killed when Aguilar allegedly opened fire in the popular Howard County mall.

“There were a lot of people here at the mall at 11:15. This was a very scary incident,” said Howard County Executive Ken Ulman.

Aguilar is a Silver Spring native who was living in College Park when the attack occurred.  His mother was horrified by the carnage.

“He never had a gun before, never been interested in guns, never been interested in anything like that,” said Aguilar’s mother who asked not to be named.

Aguilar graduated in 2013 from Blake High School and was accepted to Montgomery College but never registered for classes or attended the school.

Police say Aguilar allegedly took a cab to the mall and sat in the food court for about an hour before opening fire.

Aguilar’s friends describe him as a quiet person who enjoyed science. Aguilar did not play on any sports teams while at Blake. Aguilar was an active skater, even volunteering at a local skate shop.

Aguilar’s mother said he’s never shown an interest in guns and violence. She said he even went as far to become a vegan after becoming informed about animal cruelty.

Aguilar’s mother called the police to report her son missing after he failed to report to his job at Dunkin Donuts on Route. 1  in College Park that morning.

Howard County Police confirmed Aguilar spent a lot of time at the mall and often smoked outside with a small groups of friends. Police could not confirm if Aguilar was a regular at the Zumiez store.

Police confirmed Aguilar used a Mossberg 12-gauge shot he purchased at United Gun Store in Rockville in December 2013 in the attack. Police say Aguilar fired six to eight shots in the mall. The State Medical Examiner in Baltimore said Johnson was shot multiple times. A spokesman there also said Benlolo was shot in the neck and the chest. Aguilar apparently killed himself by shooting himself in the mouth.

Aguilar ‘s backpack with homemade explosive devices was found in the store’s dressing room and county police say the store appears to be the intended target, though Aguilar shot at patrons in the food court.

Susan Case, spokeswoman for Howard County General Hospital, said five victims went to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries, including one man with a broken jaw and another person shot in the foot. According to Case, all victims are in good condition and were released from the hospital by Saturday night.  

According to court records, Aguilar does not have any prior offenses. County police say they have recovered personal writings from Aguilar’s home detailing his unhappiness with his life.

Johnson’s family says he and Benlolo, who began working at the store in November, were not romantically involved. Though Aguilar and Benlolo both lived in College Park, Howard County chief of police, William J. McMahon, said the police have not established whether or not Aguilar and either of the victims had a personal relationship.

 “We have not been able to verify any relationship up to this point between him and either one of our victims. We can’t establish if there is one or if there is not one. That is an open question… we are working to find that out now. We do know one of our victims also lived in College Park, we don’t know if there is any connection there or if that is incidental. We’re working to establish that,” said Chief McMahon.

Rick Brooks, CEO of Zumiez released a statement about the shooting stating counseling is available to store employees.

"We are deeply saddened by the violence that has occurred this morning within our store in Maryland at The Mall in Columbia. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families…“The Zumiez team is a tight knit community and all of our hearts go out to Brianna and Tyler’s families, ”said Brooks.

The mall reopened on Monday at 1p.m.  with counselors available to patrons and two memorial sites. There will be a memorial held today at 5p.m.

“We are an incredibly safe community in Howard County and here in Columbia and we are an incredibly strong and caring community and the outpouring of love and compassion that I’ve seen through tragedy has warmed my heart,” said Ulman. 

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